by James Leonard for allmusic
Jan. 1, 2004
This is easily the best set of music Arnold Schoenberg wrote for string quartet ever recorded. Of course, since all music by Schoenberg is an aesthetic anathema and a musical abomination to almost all listeners, this will matter not a jot to almost all listeners. But for those listeners who listen with minds and hearts and souls, as well ears, the string quartets of Schoenberg are recognized as among the most brilliantly composed and deeply expressive works of the first half of the twentieth century, works of unremitting concentration and unrelenting intensity and inescapable profundity. And from the pastoral String Quartet D major, without opus number, of 1897 through the enormously heroic String Quartet D minor, Op. 7, of 1905; the excruciatingly expressionistic String Quartet F sharp minor, Op. 10, of 1908; the drivingly dodecaphonic String Quartet, Op. 30, of 1927; and the powerfully ambiguous String Quartet, Op. 37, of 1936, the Aron Quartett and soprano Anna Maria Pammer in the piercing Op. 10 perform all Schoenberg's quartets with absolute assurance and complete confidence. The intonation even in the atonal works is faultless. The ensemble even in knottiest works is flawless. The interpretations even in the agonizing works are all but ideal and thus almost endurable. With the inclusion of his two earliest works for string quartet plus spoken commentaries by the composer, this is not only the best but the most complete set of the music Arnold Schoenberg wrote for string quartet. Preiser's sound is lucid and compassionate.